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It’s been almost a dozen season since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a threat to make it to the playoffs, but general manager Jason Licht thinks he’s solved the problem by bringing his latest head coach out of retirement.
After proving he’s healthy enough to even do the job, Bruce Arians has made it his goal this offseason to improve his team’s defense, which ranked at the bottom of the league last season.
Arians and his new coordinators will also have to figure out how to put quarterback Jameis Winston in a position to shine again, and so we take a look at several of the bigger offseason moves the Buccaneers have made in addition to the odds and predictions of their upcoming 2019 season.
Despite the fact that their offense led the league in total passing yards, the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the season with a 5-11 record and no postseason play for the eleventh season in a row.
The Bucs started 2-0 with Fitzmagic under center, AKA 14-year veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who on a one-year contract filled in for normal starter Jameis Winston, who had to serve a three-game suspension for off-field behavior that violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The two quarterbacks ended up switching back-and-forth throughout the season and led the league in passing but the team ended up in fourth place of the NFC South and as a result, general manager Jason Lich fired head coach Dirk Koetter after his third season in charge.
Since Jon Gruden was fired as head coach in January 2009, the Buccaneers have not won the NFC South or been to the postseason and in that time they have gone through four head coaches and are now on their fifth.
Famed two-time coach of the year Bruce Arians was lured out of retirement to turn Tampa Bay’s football team around after passing a physical which quieted any doubts that may have been circulating about his health.
Arians have brought in one of his former Arizona Cardinals assistants, Byron Leftwich, as the offensive coordinator, and Todd Bowles, the former head coach of the New York Jets, as his defensive coordinator.
After playing for nine seasons with the Buccaneers, 31-year-old defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was released and as a free agent is currently being courted by the several teams, including most of the AFC North.
The writing for McCoy had been on the wall ever since Arians told reporters at the Annual League Meeting that McCoy had not been “as disruptive” in recent years, and the $13 million in salary still owed to him made him tough to trade.
Contrary to Arian’s analysis, McCoy has been productive, with at least five sacks in each of the last seven seasons and 50.5 total sacks since 2010.
Now that he’s off the Tampa Bay roster, McCoy will no longer count against their cap.
Bucs fans will remember three years ago in 2016 when the front office traded into the second round of the draft to select kicker Roberto Aguayo, who ended up with the worst field goal percentage in the NFL that season and was waived the following August.
This offseason, once again the Buccaneers took the first kicker off the board in the fifth round when they selected Matt Gay of Utah with the 145th overall pick.
When asked about the move on ESPN, Arians didn’t hesitate with his response:
“We need to score more points.”
Given that seven of the Buccaneers’ eight draft picks and five of the free agents they signed were on the defensive side of the ball, it’s not tough to deduce that strengthening up their 27th ranked defense was a big strategy of Licht and Arians going into the offseason.
Of course, without backup Ryan Fitzpatrick on the roster anymore, starting quarterback Jameis Winston will have to figure out how to start all sixteen games, something he hasn’t come close to doing for the last two seasons.
The main strategy will be to figure out how to turn those fourth-quarter losses into wins, given that last season the Bucs lost at least seven of their games by one score or less.
Inside linebacker Kwon Alexander, who took a four-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers worth $54 million, with $25.5 million of that guaranteed.
Slot receiver Adam Humphries, who signed with the Tennessee Titans for four years and $36 million, with $19 million of that guaranteed.
Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who agreed to a two-year, $11 million deal with the Miami Dolphins, with $5.5 million of that guaranteed.
Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who signed a one-year deal worth $4 million, with $3 million of that guaranteed.
Inside linebacker Deone Bucannon, who agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, with $1.45 million of that guaranteed.
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who signed a one-year deal worth $4 million, with all of that guaranteed.
Offense: Wide receiver, kicker
Defense: Cornerback, linebacker, safety, edge rusher, defensive tackle
The Buccaneers ended up with 8 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they were:
Over the last decade, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t been to the playoffs once, and in that same amount of time, they have only done better than 3rd place in the NFC South once, when they were in 2nd place 2014.
In the history of the franchise, the Bucs have been to the playoffs ten times, including a Super Bowl XXXVII win in 2002 against the Oakland Raiders, 48-21.
The last two times Tampa Bay has played football in January was in 2005 and 2007, when they lost in the Wild Card Playoffs both times.
The oddsmakers have zero faith in Bruce Arian’s ability to turn Tampa Bay coal into gold, predicting his Buccaneers will once again finish last in the NFC South.
Twelve other NFC teams have better odds of getting to the Super Bowl, and 25 other teams have the same or better chances of winning a Lombardi Trophy next season.
If you’ve ever been to a Bucs game, you know their pirated-garbed fans are incredibly serious about their team, but they may have to wait for at least one more season of growth and rebuild before mighty Bruce can get them back to the playoffs.
Does Bruce Arians still have his coach of the year magic, or has his time away from the game dulled his coaching abilities?
Is Jameis Winston ready to have his breakout year, or is he on his way out as a franchise leader?
Will the newly built defense be able to keep the opposition from scoring, or will they allow them to put up an average of 29 points per game (2nd most) like they did last season?
The odds say it’s a rebuilding year in Tampa Bay, but it’s probably not a good idea to doubt Bruce Arians this early in his comeback.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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